Welcome to MSF Field Research


MSF is known for its humanitarian medical work, but it has also produced important research based on its field experience. It has published articles in over 100 peer-reviewed journals and they have often changed clinical practice and been used for humanitarian advocacy. These articles are available for free, in full text - no login required. We sincerely thank the publishers for their permission to archive on this site.


Published Research and Commentary
Conference Abstracts
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Research Resources


  • Outcomes at 18 mo of 37 noma (cancrum oris) cases surgically treated at the Noma Children's Hospital, Sokoto, Nigeria.

    Farley, ES; Amirtharajah, M; Winters, RD; Taiwo, AO; Oyemakinda, MJ; Fosto, A; Torhee, LA; Mehta, UC; Bil, KA; Lenglet, AD (Oxford University Press, 2020-08-12)
    Background: Noma is a rapidly progressing infection of the oral cavity frequently resulting in severe facial disfigurement. We present a case series of noma patients surgically treated in northwest Nigeria. Methods: A retrospective analysis of routinely collected data (demographics, diagnosis and surgical procedures undergone) and in-person follow-up assessments (anthropometry, mouth opening and quality of life measurements) were conducted with patients who had surgery >6 mo prior to data collection. Results: Of the 37 patients included, 21 (56.8%) were male and 22 (62.9%) were aged >6 y. The median number of months between last surgery and follow-up was 18 (IQR 13, 25) mo. At admission, the most severely affected anatomical area was the outer cheek (n = 9; 36.0% of patients had lost between 26% and 50%). The most frequent surgical procedures were the deltopectoral flap (n = 16; 43.2%) and trismus release (n = 12; 32.4%). For the eight trismus-release patients where mouth opening was documented at admission, all had a mouth opening of 0-20 mm at follow-up. All patients reported that the surgery had improved their quality of life. Conclusions: Following their last surgical intervention, noma patients do experience some improvements in their quality of life, but debilitating long-term sequelae persist.
  • Mortality in adults with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis and HIV by antiretroviral therapy and tuberculosis drug use: an individual patient data meta-analysis.

    Bisson, GP; Bastos, M; Campbell, JR; Bang, D; Brust, JC; Isaakidis, P; Lange, C; Menzies, D; Migliori, GB; Pape, JW; et al. (Elsevier, 2020-08-08)
    Background: HIV-infection is associated with increased mortality during multidrug-resistant tuberculosis treatment, but the extent to which the use of antiretroviral therapy (ART) and anti-tuberculosis medications modify this risk are unclear. Our objective was to evaluate how use of these treatments altered mortality risk in HIV-positive adults with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. Methods: We did an individual patient data meta-analysis of adults 18 years or older with confirmed or presumed multidrug-resistant tuberculosis initiating tuberculosis treatment between 1993 and 2016. Data included ART use and anti-tuberculosis medications grouped according to WHO effectiveness categories. The primary analysis compared HIV-positive with HIV-negative patients in terms of death during multidrug-resistant tuberculosis treatment, excluding those lost to follow up, and was stratified by ART use. Analyses used logistic regression after exact matching on country World Bank income classification and drug resistance and propensity-score matching on age, sex, geographic site, year of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis treatment initiation, previous tuberculosis treatment, directly observed therapy, and acid-fast-bacilli smear-positivity to obtain adjusted odds ratios (aORs) and 95% CIs. Secondary analyses were conducted among those with HIV-infection. Findings: We included 11 920 multidrug-resistant tuberculosis patients. 2997 (25%) were HIV-positive and on ART, 886 (7%) were HIV-positive and not on ART, and 1749 (15%) had extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis. By use of HIV-negative patients as reference, the aOR of death was 2·4 (95% CI 2·0-2·9) for all patients with HIV-infection, 1·8 (1·5-2·2) for HIV-positive patients on ART, and 4·2 (3·0-5·9) for HIV-positive patients with no or unknown ART. Among patients with HIV, use of at least one WHO Group A drug and specific use of moxifloxacin, levofloxacin, bedaquiline, or linezolid were associated with significantly decreased odds of death. Interpretation: Use of ART and more effective anti-tuberculosis drugs is associated with lower odds of death among HIV-positive patients with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. Access to these therapies should be urgently pursued.
  • The potential public health consequences of COVID-19 on malaria in Africa.

    Sherrard-Smith, E; Hogan, AB; Hamlet, A; Watson, OJ; Whittaker, C; Winskill, P; Ali, F; Mohammad, AB; Uhomoibhi, P; Maikore, I; et al. (Nature Research, 2020-08-07)
    The burden of malaria is heavily concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) where cases and deaths associated with COVID-19 are rising1. In response, countries are implementing societal measures aimed at curtailing transmission of SARS-CoV-22,3. Despite these measures, the COVID-19 epidemic could still result in millions of deaths as local health facilities become overwhelmed4. Advances in malaria control this century have been largely due to distribution of long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs)5, with many SSA countries having planned campaigns for 2020. In the present study, we use COVID-19 and malaria transmission models to estimate the impact of disruption of malaria prevention activities and other core health services under four different COVID-19 epidemic scenarios. If activities are halted, the malaria burden in 2020 could be more than double that of 2019. In Nigeria alone, reducing case management for 6 months and delaying LLIN campaigns could result in 81,000 (44,000-119,000) additional deaths. Mitigating these negative impacts is achievable, and LLIN distributions in particular should be prioritized alongside access to antimalarial treatments to prevent substantial malaria epidemics.
  • Association between admission criteria and body composition among young children with moderate acute malnutrition, a cross-sectional study from Burkina Faso.

    Fabiansen, C; Cichon, B; Yameogo, CW; Iuel-Brockdorf, A-S; Phelan, K; Wells, JC; Ritz, C; Filteau, S; Briend, A; Christensen, VB; et al. (Springer Nature, 2020-08-06)
    Children with moderate acute malnutrition (MAM) are treated based on low weight-for-length z-score (WLZ), low mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) or both. This study aimed to assess associations of admission criteria and body composition (BC), to improve treatment of MAM. We undertook a cross-sectional study among 6-23 months old Burkinabe children with MAM. Fat-free (FFM) and fat mass (FM) were determined by deuterium dilution and expressed as FFM (FFMI) and FM index (FMI). Of 1,489 children, 439 (29.5%) were recruited by low MUAC only (MUAC-O), 734 (49.3%) by low WLZ and low MUAC (WLZ-MUAC) and 316 (21.2%) by low WLZ only (WLZ-O). Thus, 1,173 (78.8%) were recruited by low MUAC, with or without low WLZ (ALL-MUAC). After adjustments, WLZ-O had 89 g (95% confidence interval (CI) 5; 172) lower FFM compared to MUAC-O. Similarly, WLZ-O had 0.89 kg/m2 (95% CI 0.77; 1.01) lower FFMI compared to MUAC-O, whereas there was no difference for FMI. However, boys included by WLZ-O compared to MUAC-O had 0.21 kg/m2 (95% CI 0.05; 0.38) higher FMI. In contrast, girls included by WLZ-O had 0.17 (95% CI 0.01; 0.33) kg/m2 lower FMI compared to MUAC-O (interaction, p = 0.002). We found that different criteria for admission into MAM treatment programmes select children with differences in BC, especially FFMI.

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